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Women in the World D.C. 2017
Dr. Annie Sparrow

The rescuers

Harrowing stories from the front lines of Syria’s brutal war on doctors

By WITW Staff on February 16, 2017

“Syria has got to be the most dangerous place in the world to be a doctor,” said Dr. Annie Sparrow. As someone who has worked in Afghanistan, Darfur, Chad, Kenya, and Lebanon, she speaks from experience.

In the six years of the Syrian war, nearly 800 medical personnel have been killed in targeted attacks on hospitals. Doctors and nurses are known to have frantically rescued patients in basements with their cellphone lights, even donating their own blood, before being arrested, kidnapped, tortured, or killed. Dr. Sparrow and Syrian doctor Dr. Jehan Mouhsen were interviewed by Washington Post National Correspondent Mary Jordan at Tina Brown’s Women in the World D.C. Salon, to give riveting firsthand accounts and share the strength of Syrian women.

Dr. Sparrow drew from her work in ravaged countries to discuss the appeal of hospital targeting. By targeting hospitals, the Geneva Conventions were “totally violated,” Sparrow said. “It’s a very deliberate strategy of war designed to control the population.” If a country has no doctors, no one will stay. This may be effective, but it’s also the reason why Syria has now contributed to about a third of the refugees in the world today.

Dr. Jehan Mouhsen shared her harrowing experiences living under bombardment. She described the dread of walking out of her home, without knowing if she was going to return. “I had to leave the country running through a sniper’s field, I watched rockets, barrel bombs, heard gunshots all over the place.” She is now pregnant with her first child, but her husband, who is also a doctor, is currently stuck in Turkey.

Watch the full panel above to hear these brave rescuers discuss lost colleagues, the special toll that this war has had on pregnant Syrian women, and whether they would go back to Syria.


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